Jun 09 — Aug 19, 2022
Featuring work by: Philadelphia Wireman
Fleisher/Ollman is pleased to announce two summer exhibitions: a solo presentation of Philadelphia Wireman, and New Inventory Masterworks.
For Fleisher/Ollman's first solo presentation of Philadelphia Wireman since 2006, the gallery supplements inventory holdings with pieces from longstanding collections of the work, some going back as far as the first Wireman show in 1985. Including approximately 35 works, this is a rare opportunity for the public to experience these sculptures en masse.
Discovered in the late 1970s in trash bags on a Philadelphia alley off of South Street, these remarkable things have sparked intense speculation regarding who made them and for what purpose. As discarded items in a neighborhood undergoing development and with the failure of all attempts to locate the maker, it seems likely that the objects were thrown away after the artist died. The entire collection totals approximately 1,200 pieces and a few small, abstract marker drawings. The dense construction of the work, despite a modest range of scale and materials, is singularly obsessive and disciplined in design: a wire armature or exoskeleton firmly binds various found objects, including plastic, glass, product packaging, adhesive tape, rubber, batteries, pens, leather, reflectors, nuts and bolts, nails, foil, various mechanical parts, bottle caps, camera flash bulbs, coins even a feather. Several sculptures featured here appear to contain drawings on paper or masking tape presumably by the artist; it appears the Wireman occasionally embedded existing art into the wire matrices.
The Philadelphia Wireman sculptures conjure a range of anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and socio-cultural interpretations and have been discussed in the context of work created to fulfill the shamanistic needs of alternative religions in American culture. Curators, collectors, and critics have variously compared certain pieces to Native American medicine bundles, African-American memory jugs, and African fetish objects. Philadelphia Wireman, whatever their identity, possessed an uncanny ability to transform ordinary materials into power objects. Over the course of the past three decades, this collection has come to be regarded as an important discovery in the field of self-taught art.